Patna, July 16. Inaugurating the two-day Sixth Annual Conference of International Growth Centre (IGC)-Bihar on Saturday here, Bihar Governor Mr Ram Nath Kovind said it was heartening to witness that such events were happening in Bihar where experts from around the world converged to offer insight into ways that would lead to growth. For a country like India and a state like Bihar where there was inequality of wealth possession and also of livelihood opportunities, he said, such conferences were all the more important to give proper direction to government policies.
The Governor said Bihar despite having a legacy of poor growth rate today was one of the fastest growing states in the country. This spoke volumes about the efficacy of policies of the state government. He said agriculture and food processing sectors offered immense possibilities for growth.
Emphasizing that growth needed to be inclusive, he said there could be “no social justice minus distribution justice”. There was no dearth of resources, the need was to allocate them equally, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Bihar Education Minister Mr Ashok Choudhary said Bihar was on the path of development and the conference was a celebration of this fact.
Choudhary said the focus of his ministry was the development of human capital. As a part of this strategy, girls’ education was a priority area as their education led to low fertility rate. He said the fact that the state had recorded one of the highest enrolment rates by girls at the primary level among states was an encouraging indicator.
He said Bihar was the only state to have a technology-based system of monitoring 75,000 schools for the delivery of Midday Meal Scheme where data was received on day-to-day basis.
As a major initiative to reform the education sector, he said the government was working on a University Management Information System which would track every student’s career at the college/university level. This would help eliminate malpractices and corruption, he said. Another facet of this initiative was that the growth trajectory of every faculty member would be available digitally.
In an apparent reference to corruption in the pension distribution system, he said his department was trying to ensure that when a teacher retired he received “every penny due to him”.
He added that an “operation clean-up” was on in the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) and that for the purpose expert opinion was being received from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). A child tracking system from Class I to X was also being worked out.
Earlier, welcoming guests and speakers, Mr Shaibal Gupta, Country Co-director, IGC India-Bihar, said because of its tremendous growth potential, Bihar had got the only province-specific IGC centre. All other IGC centres are country-specific.
Prof Anjan Mukherji, County Director, IGC, was in the chair. He informed the audience that IGC gave on-demand policy advice to governments of developing countries.
Prof P P Ghosh, Director, ADRI, delivered the vote of thanks.
The first project work during the first session on ‘Effective Public Services Delivery’ was presented by Ms Shabana Mitra of IIM-B on the title ‘Wheels of Power: Long-term effect of targeting girls with in-kind transfers’. She spoke about the preliminary results of her research carried jointly with Kalle Moene of the University of Oslo.
Speaking on the study on Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana, completed recently, she said one of the major takeaways of the study was that the girls who got cycles had more chances of completing Class X than those who did not have cycles. The difference between the two categories was 27 per cent tilted in favour of the former.
She said the study had pointed out that girls who received cycles had not only more chances to study till Class X but also were more likely to delay marriage, at least a year later than those who did not get cycles. This also had a positive effect on fertility rate.
Cycles had been a powerful tool of empowerment because better education meant that girls would not go for farm jobs and would look for better opportunities commensurate with their education.
The second project work during the session was presented by Sisir Debnath of ISB, Hyderabad, on the topic ‘No free lunch: Using tech to improve the efficiency of school feeding programmes”. This too was a joint work with Sheetal Shekhari of Virginia University.
The session was chaired by S Subramanian of MIDS.